May 21, 2019

Former FDA commissioner: Gene therapies' price tags threaten access

Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb. Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Gene therapies and other new treatments that have the potential to cure debilitating diseases could also end up widening the gap between the rich and the poor, former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb writes for CNBC.

The bottom line: That's because the expected price tag for some of these new medicines are expected to be in the millions. Insurers — which are used to pay for treatment over time — are struggling to figure out how to pay this kind of sum all at once.

  • The problem is especially acute within Medicaid, which is constrained by state budgets.

One solution is to mimic Louisiana's "Netflix model" for hepatitis C treatment, in which the state pays the drugmaker a fixed annual fee for an unlimited amount of hepatitis C medication for 5 years.

  • This kind of model, Gottlieb writes, is a win-win: Drugmakers can offer states better pricing because of the multiyear commitment, while states get to smooth out the cost of making the treatment available to a whole population.
  • "We need to make sure that access to a curative drug doesn't become a yardstick by which poverty is eventually measured," he writes.

Go deeper: A look at Scott Gottlieb's legacy as FDA head

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Coronavirus kills 2 Diamond Princess passengers and South Korea sees first death

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. U.S. numbers include Americans extracted from Princess Cruise ship.

Two elderly Diamond Princess passengers have been killed by the novel coronavirus — the first deaths confirmed among the more than 600 infected aboard the cruise ship. South Korea also announced its first death Thursday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed more than 2,200 people and infected over 75,465 others, mostly in mainland China, where the National Health Commission announced 118 new deaths since Thursday.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 6 hours ago - Health

SoftBank to cut its stake to get T-Mobile's Sprint deal done

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

T-Mobile and Sprint announced a revised merger agreement that will see SoftBank getting a smaller share of the combined company, while most shareholders will receive the previously agreed upon exchange rate. The companies said they hope to get the deal as early as April 1.

Why it matters: The amended deal reflects the decline in Sprint's business, while leaving most shareholders' stake intact and removing another hurdle to the deal's closure.